In March 2017 a Dorset vodka manufacturer had three adverts banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for being socially irresponsible.

In one of the ads, Black Cow Vodka parodied the famous ‘Accrington Stanley, who are they?’ advert from the Milk Marketing Board – but the ASA challenged whether it “encouraged excessive drinking” due to two empty bottles being replaced with three full bottles at the end of the advert.

In the original, two children rush into the house after playing football. One teases the other for wanting a glass of milk, but retorts “Ian Rush says people who didn’t drink milk would only be good enough to play for Accrington Stanley” – which popularised the phrase “Accrington Stanley? Who are they?… Exactly!”

The Black Cow parody video was shown on their website with the title ‘Remember this ad from 1989?’

The ASA stated: “The ad featured the same actor who had appeared in the original as a child, and replicated it shot by shot using vodka instead of milk. We noted that this was a play on the fact that Black Cow vodka was made from milk.”

However the ASA upheld the complaint, stating that it “considered that the large quantity of vodka depicted, and the replacement of the empty bottles with full ones, was nonetheless still likely to be understood as implying and encouraging excessive drinking” and that “the ad was socially irresponsible and breached the Code.”

Two further adverts were banned, and you can read more about the ruling here.

What does good look like?

The advert was aiming for a mix of satire and nostalgia and many would argue it hit the spot. Perhaps those on the ASA Council were trying to view this video without the lens of nostalgia, putting themselves in the place of the younger generation who might not understand the references.

In marketing we’re taught to think about customer personas and write/design/create just for them – but in a global world where anyone can see everything online, should we try and consider how our ads might be interpreted by everyone else too? I don’t think we should take this to the extreme, otherwise we’d never create anything for fear of offending or being inappropriate, but I will try and think how my marcomms could be construed by those not knowing what I know.

Moving forward

What’s the moral of this Bad Marketing story for you? What should Black Cow Vodka have done differently? What will you do differently in future in your own work?

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